Guatemala’s Killing Fields

Another Banana Union Leader Assassinated in Guatemala

by Paul Garver

This year Guatemala is overtaking Colombia in the contest for killing the most advocates of rights for workers and peasants.

On May 26, Joel Hernandez Godoy, finance secretary of the banana workers union SITRABI, was shot dead by a gunman on motorcycle while driving to the union headquarters in the town of Morales.

This brutal assassination follows the April 10 murder of SITRABI officer Oscar  Humberto Vasquez, killed by two men on a motorcycle in Nueva Chiriqui, Morales.

The IUF, SITRABI’s global union federation, is asking that protest messages be sent to Guatemalan President Álvaro Colom.

The systematic violence against trade union, campesino and indigenous organisations in Guatemala has reached new depths of horror.  Between 14 and 15 May, 29 campesinos including two women and three minor children were murdered at the Finca Los Cocos in the municipality of La Libertad for demanding lands to which they were legally entitled.

Repression is falling especially hard on indigenous peoples, as it did in the 1980s when the Guatemalan military and right-wing terrorists massacred whole communities.  On 14 February the bullet-riddled bodies of  three Q’egchi’ peasant leaders affiliated with the Encuentro Campesino movement were  found floating in a lake near Livingston.

Although the Guatemalan government pledged to protect union and human rights in order to secure membership in the CAFTA-DR free trade treaty with the USA, the U.S. government has shown little interest in enforcing these provisions in Guatemala any more than it has in Honduras or the rest of Central America.  Is there any reason to believe that the USA will be any more concerned with holding the Colombian government to its pledge to end union and human rights abuses as a condition to gaining an Free Trade Agreement with the USA?

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